Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mom's Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Among the other delicious morsels mom prepared in Texas was this moist, slightly spicy and somewhat chocolatey pumpkin bread. I suggest serving it at room temperature with a pat of softened butter. I'm tempted to try this with cinnamon chips as well.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

3 C sugar
1 C salad oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
3 ½ C flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
2/3 C water

Chocolate Chips – any amount (I usually use a Cup in the batter and more to swirl on top)

Cream sugar and oil. Add eggs and pumpkin. Mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture alternately with the water. Pour into two well-greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Add more chips on top and swirl into batter with a knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and ten minutes or until a toothpick is clean after inserting it into the bread. Let stand ten minutes and then remove from pans. ENJOY!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Limoncello update

I've been remiss in updating everyone on the progress of the limoncello. We had a nip last night. It's delicious. If at all possible, use Meyer lemons. They give an aromatic fragrance that normal lemons just can't match. If I were to do it again, I would use a tad less sugar because of the sweetness of the Meyer lemons. Now that I have faith in my recipe I am sharing it. It's fairly standard. Most recipes double the amounts but this made two 750 ml bottles. Plenty for keeping and giving away.


The zest from 7 Meyer lemons
1 750 ml bottle of vodka
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2 1/2 cups of water

Special equipment - a funnel

Shove the zest from the Meyer lemons into a gallon jug (used jugs of water work well) and add the vodka. Store in a cool dark place for at least 10 days and up to 30 (I did two weeks). After at least 10 days, make a simple syrup with the water and sugar. Add to the vodka lemon mixture. Let sit for at least another 10 days and up to 30 days. Strain after the deisgnated amount of time and pour into a pretty bottle. Clear ones work best because they show off the gemlike yellow color. Pour a shot for yourself and your partner to drink while watching Project Runway. Deplore how evil Santino is and wonder if Emmett is a fembot created by Tim Gunn.

We were tagged!

Thanks to Toastpoint for tagging us for a meme. Yes, cooking in other people's kitchen is a pain in the ass. In fact, it was one of my very first posts. And we even wrote about rolling pie crust with a wine bottle. You can find it here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Traveling to Texas -- Monica's Aca y Alla

It was vital that we quickly get a hot basket of chips and some salsa in front of us as soon as possible. For lunch on day 2 we made it to Monica's Aca y Alla. For longtime readers, you may recognize this is my standard bearer for Mexican food. Monica's is exactly the kind of restaurant I would love to open. Very reasonable prices for first-rate food, great service, and an inviting ambiance. I have always had a delicious meal, served right.

We were joined by J2, my brother, who loves Monica's delicious Mexico City and Tex-Mex cuisine as much as I do. Shortly after being seated, a basket of warm tri-colored chips was delivered to the table with a couple of bowls of their astounding salsa. Why is it astounding. They thought about it. It's clear that the taste, the texture, the strenth of the salsa, mattered to someone who was able to affect my experience at the restaurant. No one flavor was overpowering, bit of cilantro, fresh tomatoes, touches of cumin and salt. This is a major salsa experience for the table.

We started with the white queso. A jalapeno sonoma cheese base anchors this trademarked cup oh heaven dotted with bits of peppers and spinach. The texture bounces around that line of molten goodness and thick, rich cheesiness that just plain makes me happy to eat. It is impossible to stay out of.

Judging from the consistent freshness of the chips, I opted for beef fajita nachos. Now Monica's can do some killer funky Mexican so I always feel encouraged to opt for the more unique dishes. The kicker here though is that restaurants that can do the funky or unique often do the basics very well. My beef fajita nachos were no exception. Tender bits of meat packed with the flavor of a delicious marinade and then grilled with perfection rested under and over just-melted cheese and a handful of finely chopped tomatoes and onions. Slathered on the chips but refusing to make them soggy was a generous helping of smoky refried black beans. I just love with refried beans have a bold character and are not thrown into a dish or onto a dish just for the hell of it. Again, someone thought about how this food was supposed to taste and cared about the experience of the diner. That is just damn fantastic.

I'll let T fill in about his dish. Next stop . . .more X-mas treats.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Traveling to Texas -- The Cookies Begin

After our trip to Sonic, we headed off to the ranch. More like a ranch development with golf and no horses, but I have seen coyotes out here. The folks moved here after retiring though mom has taken on work as a professor at a local college.

I realized I left something out of the Sonic entry that is worth mentioning. For some reason, they occasionally show Sonic commercials on DC stations. Why? As far as I can tell the nearest Sonic is 108 miles away. I love Sonic, but not that much.

We arrived to a house full of Christmas. Holly and ornaments over the doors, toy soldiers, my mom’s famous tree, and food everywhere. We were greeted with Chocolate Crinkles and Mini Raspberry Empa-turnovers

This was my first encounter with Chocolate Crinkles. It seems to be a fairly popular recipe judging from the Google results, but I had not had these. I liked that they weren’t as sweet as our other holiday fare.

Chocolate Crinkles

2 C sugar
½ C vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons vanilla
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
4 eggs
2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C powdered sugar

Mix sugar, oil, vanilla and chocolate in large bowl. Stir in eggs one at a time. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours.

Heat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet. Drop by teaspoonfuls into powdered sugar. Roll in sugar to coat. Shape dough into balls. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bakes 10-12 minutes or until no indention remains when touched. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Raspberry Turnovers

1 C flour
½ C butter
1 tsp finely grated orange peel
1/8 tsp salt
1 package cream cheese, softened
¼ C raspberry preserves
Orange glaze (see below)

Mix flour, butter, orange peel, salt, cream cheese. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into 2 inch circles.

Spoon about ¼ tsp preserves onto half of each circle w. Moisten edge on half of each circle with water. Fold dough over preserves. Press edges with fork to seal. Place one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Drizzle with glaze.

Orange Glaze

½ C powdered sugar
½ tsp finely grated orange peel
2 – 3 tsp orange juice
Mix all ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Traveling to Texas: Part 1------ Sonic

T and I have made our way to a large patch of land just outside of Denton, TX, in one way or another home to Norah Jones, Rocky Horror, and the University of North Texas. We’re visiting the family and, as Texans tend to do, eating quite well, thank you very much.

After arriving at the airport, we were both pretty dehydrated and, together with my dad and brother, sought out a Sonic. Have you been to Sonic? My oh my how I love me some Sonic. Think drive up burger joint with lots of treats for the kiddies and the adults.
Corndogs, swirl soft serve ice cream, grilled cheese on Texas Toast served in a stay-warm foil pouch, and one of the best cherry limeades known to humankind.

When I was growing up we would drive up and my sister and I would fight to see who got to push the call button that would summon the disembodied voice to welcome us to Sonic and take our orders. The call button was either knobby and black or round and red and was encased in a tiny metal box with a speaker.

Shortly thereafter someone would roll up with our order, balance the tray on the driver’s side window and collect payment. Oh, and when I say roll, I mean on roller skates. I’m not sure how they felt about it, but to us, it was thrilling.

A few years later, I knew the bad girl who lived across from my friend Steve worked there. She was probably sixteen, could work the eyeliner better than Robert Smith or Naomi Campbell and smoked. This is how I knew she was bad. I dream now that she left Texas and joined the Runaways or some other girl band. Her name was Shauna or Tammy.

So it is always nostalgic for me to see that Sonic has taken over this part of Texas. It wasn’t too long before we pulled up and my brother pushed the call button to dictate our carefully constructed order.

For me, the decision at a Sonic is always a battle of the beverages. Growing up, I would get the “natural” lime slush. See, Sonic makes no pretensions about its stellar drinks being “unnatural.” So I could have a slush made with the juice of fresh fruit, or one made with artificially flavored syrup. I opted for the “fresh fruit” lime slush after realizing this was probably the same as the “natural” from my youth. And it was delicious. The ice is crushed just perfectly in tiny little slurpable cubelets. Sharp lime flavors are tempered by the sugary goodness of the simple syrup combining for a sweet and refreshing treat.

T had a cherry limeade which I am certain hit the spot, “fresh” or not. I also had popcorn chicken, which was not as greasy as I would have expected and T had a corndog and some tater tots. The food was just what you want from one of these places, piping hot, flavorful, served fresh and just divey enough.

When we arrived home, the holiday fun was just beginning . . .(to be continued)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas - Part Four

We're in the home stretch now. This will be over soo, and I can put on my tape of Eat Drink Man Woman to wash away the nasty taste of this Lifetime movie.

Christine is back at the agent's office. She sees an old friend there and learns the sad truth that show business hates old ladies. She and Old Friend go to a diner to share their woes. Christine loses her shit over not finding a job and Old Friend tells her to be straight with her daughter so Christine can mooch off of PMEL with a clear conscience.

Christine then looks for jobs on PMEL's laptop and crashes the computer. PMEL loses her OWN shit over the crashed laptop. Christine tries to tell her daughter what a hard time she's been having being broke and trying to find work but PMEL is not having any of it and tells her to get out of her face.

Christine runs to the shoulder of Alex where she admits she misses PMEL's father. So much for the hot May-December sex. She reminisces and gets more and more sad with each memory of her dead husband. Apparently he was a hig school history teacher whose students loved him. She asks Alex to take her home with him. Obviously to bawl about her life some more and not for hot May-December sex.

It's early in the morning and PMEL is still working on her column. She hears movement in the other room and finds her mother walking in. This leads to the BIG CONFRONTATION. While Christine just wants to sleep, PMEL decides this is the best time to tell her mother she's a big fat loser. PMEL goes on and on about what an attention whore her mother is and how she never cared about her daughter except as an adoring fan. Boo hoo. PMEL rips into her mother some more. This time she talks about Christine's vanity. Christine just wants this to end and so she says she'll crash at Alex's. This is when PMEL lets out the BIG SECRET. Alex only asked her out because PMEL put him up to it. In possibly the worst writing ever Christine leaves by saying "I have always loved you. You may not remember it but you used to love me too."" Ooooh. BURN!

Returning from commercials, PMEL is knocking on Alex's door at some ungodly hour looking for her mother. Christine isn't there, but Alex gives some smoking emotional support. They look everywhere, including driving to Long Island to PMEL's old family home. It's there she learns that Christine is stone cold broke. She thought the house was rented, but it was sold years ago to pay off debt. Damn, plastic surgery is expensive. PMEL gets all teary at her childhood Christmas tree. Like the Grinch, PMEL's heart grows three sizes.

PMEL and Alex share their stories of parental woe. PMEL because she didn't know her mother was broke and Alex because his father didn't want to open a restaurant until he had more moeny saved up. And in a completely inappropriate moment, Alex asks PMEL if she wants kids. Because Alex is not dead inside and he is all about family.

PMEL comes home to strummy girl music and a gazillion messages from her metrosexual editor saying she's missed her deadline. She roots through one of her mother's bags and sees all of the things her mother kept to reminder her of PMEL. Much sobbing ensures. In a last ditch effort to find her mom, PMEL goes to sleazy agent to see if he has any leads. He tells her to go to Old Friend. Old friend gives PMEL a reproving look and tells her that Christine is working a few shifts at the sleazy bar where old friend works.

In the meantime, Evil Blonde is gunning for the Food Critic Job and submits her own column. Metrosexual Editors are unimpressed but desperate. The best compliment they can give it, is that it's in English.

Segue to sleazy bar. The bar is actually a strip club and we can see Christine broken down by the sleaze. PMEL decides this is the time bring up her dead father and the fact she never saw her mother cry during his death. Some skeeze is asking for a scotch and soda. Good luck dude, there's a family crisis going on. It's a total Ya-Ya moment in the strip bar as Christine tells PMEL that she was distant to spare PMEL from all the pain of seeing her mother in mourning. All those years PMEL thought that Christine just didn't give a shit. Thy cry and hug and all the patrons are wondering if this will lead to some girl on girl action. This also leads to PMEL's admission that she's in love with Alex. Christine quits the bar and leaves.

PMEL and Chrstine are in PMEL's apartment doing that four-cereals-in-one-bowl thing. Here's where i have to admit I mix my cereals too. I love the Kashi Good Friends cereal with the interracial couple on the box, but I need a little sugar in the morning so I mix it with a little Honey Bunches of Oats. I should be a Lifetime tv movie heroine. The mixed cereal breakfast unblocks PMEL's writer's block.

She decides to write about comfort food in her column and the fact that her comfort food is the four-cereals-in-one-bowl. We hear the column read by voice-over. It's nearly at atrocious as Christine Baranski singing "Shadows of the Night." She clumsily ties it into her review of Alex's restaurant. Inexplicably, Metrosexual Editors declare it the best thing since MFK Fisher and decide to print the column and give PMEL her job back. Morgan's assy review gets thrown back in her face and she is left with her soulless single career girl life. Dead inside.

More voice-over of the column as Alex's furniture gets repossed by sleazy loan shark. When PMEL gets to the restaurant, it's too late and the furniture's been repossed. Alex is up shit creek. They lament the restaurant closing before the review comes out. Over an open fire. Just DO IT ALREADY. PMEL comes up with an idea to open the restaurant anyway. She tells Alex to start cooking and she'll handle the rest.

So Christine and PMEL are working to get the Who's Who of New York to come to the restaurant and Alex is cooking up a storm. She even gets the magazine's gossip columnist and her gossipy friends to come. And because PMEL now has a soul and is sexually liberated, we see her coming out of her bedroom in a "sexy" purple dress. Actually it looks more like one of RuPaul's gowns on her 1998 Christmas album. Christine on the other hand is wearing a tasteful little black dress that screams sexy but not whore.

Christmas comes early to Alex when the gays from the Middle Eastern restaurant come to Alex's, complete with tables and chairs (and very nice ones indeed). Oh those gays, what would a single career girl do without them? More and more New York glitterati come to Alex's with tables and chairs, including PMEL who looks like the real Eva Longoria complete with garish makeup and body-hugging dress.

Christine is doing her part by pretending to be an interested buyer of the restaurant to the swarthy loan shark. She brings him to the restaurant which has now become New York's newest IT place. The gossip columnist brings her buddies at the New Tork Times, New York magazine, and the Village Voice.

In an amazing bit of business sense, the restaurant keeps the people waiting for tables occupied by giving them shots of ouzo. And now is the happy ending to Christine's problem of being washed up and broke. Metrosexual Editor #1 spills a drink on her and they meet cute. So she doesn't gain any skills or becomes self-sufficient, she meets a man. End of story.

Alex and PMEL are cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and some food is prepared too. Bah dum dum. I'm here all night folks.

In the restaurant it's Zorba the Greek, as everyone is in a circle dancing. Metrosexual Editor #1 ask Christine if she wants to join in but Christine demurs, not wanting to be the center of attention. While this may indicate character growth, we know Christine is just waiting for some hot Metrosexual Editor love in the bathroom. We end with people dancing on the tables and PMEL and Alex hug. People who aren't dead inside have fun. THE END.

And the best Christmas gift ever? Deleting this drivel from my TiVo and never having to hear Christine Baranski sing "Shadows of the Night" again. Happy Holidays everyone!!!!!!! Everyone who isn't dead inside, that is.

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas - Part Three

So it appears Alex hates Christine's singing as much as the rest of us. He takes a business call right in the middle of her set. He then lies through his teeth and says he's having a terrific time and he wants to see her again. Meanwhile PMEL is being given the "you go girl" from her new gays at the Middle Eastern restaurant. She runs into Alex on her way home and lists every single ingredient in her lamb tagine. PMEL drunkenly talks aobut how her mother is the fun one and she's the serious one. Because single career women can't have fun. They are dead inside.

While PMEL is at work, we get treated to a montage of Chrstine desperately looking for work. Any work. She's flat broke. We never find out why but I suspect she blew it all on plastic surgery. She tries being a secretary, teaching dance classes (the kids are yelling at her lack of ballet skills), and waiting tables.

Chrstine isn't the only one going through hell as Alex finds out construction is cutting off his electricity and gas for the afternoon. This is precisely the moment PMEL comes to the restaurant. It turns out to be good timing because we see Alex's sister and nephew come in. He roughhouses with his nephew, establishing his status as a family guy, even if he's single and focused on his career. Single career men are allowed to be warm, friendly people who like kids and holidays. Single career women? Dead inside.

Oh god. Another office scene. SMEL gets an expensive bouquet of lfowers from Alex. Where'd he get the money for THAT? Does integrity actually pay the bills? Christine comes home to find herm other looking despondent, although she's too self-involved to care. Her mother then says that she RSVPed for PMEL to a fancy party and will be taking Alex. PMEL gets all pissy because now she has to make an appearance at the party.

In the taxi on the way to the party, Christine prattles on aobut her love of Brazilians as PMEL and Alex make googly eyes at each other. In what appears to be a family trait, Christine is oblivious to the flirting. Once they get to the club Christine makes a beeline to the dance floor where she does this stupid sexy dance alone. She drags Alex into this spectable and PMEL looks pissed that Alex is having a good time with her mother. She storms out of the club.

The next morning, PMEL bithcing aobut the night before to SBF. And SBF observes that PMEL has the hots for Alex. Now screwing up another romantic comedy convention, PMEL just turns around and goes "well yeah, I do have the hots for Alex." Lifetime, you need to string this along until the end of the movie where she has her BIG realization. We're only halfway through.

After commericals we have PMEL being seated in Alex's restaurant for her mandatory visit. Alex is all about family. Therefore the restaurant's seating is family style. While PMEl insists on no special treatment, Alex regales her with his most thoughtful dishes. She responds with her typical recounting of every single ingredient of each dish. Food porny montage of Alex cooking and PMEL eating.

The next day PMEl is still in afterglow from the meal. She's surrounded by gift baskets form ass kissing restaurants. She's got writer's block . Stupid storytelling. The great food at Alex's restaurant should have opened up her libido AND her talent. She really is dead inside.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas - Part Two

We come back to another office scene where PMEL is talking with Sassy Best Friend (SBF) about tthe previous night's events. PMEL gets nostalgic and we learn lesson #2 - single career women are emotionally damaged. PMEL talks about how much she misses her dead father and what a huge void she has in her life without daddy. Evil Blonde brings in Metrosexual Editor #2 who tells PMEL that this is her big chance and she will need to find her own voice and blow everyone away. Otherwise it's back to the gulag.

Cut to Alex and Brother in Law walking down the street after being turned down by a bank for a loan. They fret some more, but that's boring so we cut to Christine. She's regaling the token gay secretary about the reggae version of Good King Wenscelaus. It appears what makes it reggae is the aggresive use of the word "mon." That's so amusing, except it isn't. Chrstine then spills the beans that JJ (PMEL) stands for Janis Joplin. Because PMEL is the daughter of a free spirit. Just in case we forgot. What *I* would like to forget is the stupid reggae Good King Wenscelaus. Christine worms her way into having lunch with her food critic daughter and Evil Blonde. At the restaurant, PMEL plays it all Ruth Reichl with a fake name, but Christine the attention whore blows her cover and announces her daughter is the food critic for Glow.

After lunch Alex the restauranteur is stalking SMEL at her office, hoping to meet with the food critic. What is up with the tv rule that completely unprofessional behavior gets you what you want? Did you all see Gilmore Girls where Rory lands a job by stalking her internship supervisor and insists that he hand her a job? That's what I'm talking about.

Oh and here's the harrowing of Christine. She's at her agent's office but it appears her agent died and got replaced by his son who wants nothing to do with the day old fish that is Christine Baranski. Dude, she was in CHICAGO. Give her a job.

While Christine can't get a job, she decided to Christmasfy PMEL's apartment. This makes the bitter career gal cranky. SMEL declares her apartment a Christmas-free zone. She dead inside isn't she? To press that point even further, the contents of PMEL's closets are on her bed. It's a sea of stylish black dresses. Black dresses indicate cold and dead inside as opposed to "goes with everything." Vibrant women wear bright colors. Of course Christine breaks any boundary she may have as a mother by talking about her daughter's hot tits and ass. I wish my mother was such a free spirit she would compliment me on my sexy ass. DEAR GOD NO.

Christine sponges off her daughter some more by tagging along to a sushi dinner with SBF and her boyfriend. Of course Chrstine is all kinds of inappropriate with SBF's boyfriend. Finally PMEL ditches her mother and flees to SBF's apartment to bitch some more about what a pain in the ass her mother is and how she's a busy career gal on deadline. During this whole scene SMEL makes a bowl of cereal with five different kinds of cereal, making her all Meg Ryan quirky and cute.

In the next scene Christine seems determined to drive all of America crazy by doing aerobics while singing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Rather than sing five GOLDEN Rings. She sings five GOOOOLD rings. I'd put her on the street for that, but there are far worse offenses coming up. Pushy Alex then knocks on PMEL's door with a plate of food. He's desperate for a good review. When Alex says he'll do ANYTHING for a review, PMEL offers to come to the restaurant if Alex occupies her mother so she can work. He agrees.

The next day Chrstine and PMEL are in a bookstroe in the food section. PMEL and Alex do a little meet cute over MFK Fisher as they are both foodies. At least they didn't choose the Sandra Lee. He approaches Christine and she immediately starts talking about what a dog Camilla Parker Bowles is. This leads to the primping scene where PMEL is trying to find someone to go to dinner with her while Christine is in some "sexy" peach dress putting on makeup. PMEL harangues her mother about looking like a whore and her mother says that there's nothing wrong with being in touch with your sexuality.

Oh poor bitter career gal. She found noone to go to the Middle Eastern restaurant with her. She ends up ordering half the menu as if that wouldn't alert the management that she's a food critic.

Then comes the most atrocious scene ever created. How much did they pay Christime Baranski? It isn't enough. She and Alex are at a karaoke bar and of course she has to sing. But Christine Baranski, Broadway star doesn't pick some classy Stephen Sondheim number. Oh no, she decides to sing "Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benetar. This is a musical abortion. No seriously, it's painful.

THANK GOD. We cut away from humiliating Christine Baranski to the Middle Eastern restaurant. A bunch of guys are trying to get in for a bachelor party. As it turns out PMEL might have people to share her meal with after all. Not only that, they are GAY. Because in every chick flick since My Best Friend's Wedding, the protagonist needs Gay accessories more than she needs Manolo Blahniks.

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas - Part One

So we open with the designated busy office scene to establish JJ Jenner's identity as a busy career gal. JJ Jenner is played by Carly Pope who will now be referred to as the Poor Man's Eva Longoria (PMEL). PMEL has one of those Madonna Blonde Ambition microphones on her and she's BUSY. She careens around the office slinging documents and saving people's asses. She works for Glow magazine, a New York magazine rip-off that supposedly is the arbiter of good taste in New York. In the midst of all of this careening, we meet Redheaded Best Friend (RBF) and Evil Blonde Assistant( EB). We then move on to PMEL's very pregnant boss, the outgoing food columnist, who appears to rely heavily on PMEL for everything. Pregnant boss ruefully rubs her belly and says it's been a great gig but she's moving onto "better things" (motherhood). This is said as if she could just go on maternity leave and come back. But this is the land of bitter single career gals so I guess that isn't a possibility.

PMEL then calls and calls and calls her boyfriend to see if he'll come to her office Christmas party. It's at some swanky hip restaurant. While PMEL is fruitlessly trying to hail a cab, we cut to her mother played by Christine Baranski who's so fabulous she hails a cab just by breathing. Lesson #1 - Single career women are so sad they can't even hail a cab. Even if they look like Eva Longoria. More fabulous folks at the Christmas party, including PMEL's metrosexual Editor-In-Chief and the new sleazy new Food Critic.

Across the way is poor Greek Alex, played by Bobby Cannavale. His accountant brother-in-law frets over the fact the barren restaurant they co-own is across from the hippest place to eat in New York. For Alex, it's all about the art. Sorry Alex, integrity won't pay the bills. In a moment of desperation, Alex and brother-in'law go across the street to see if they could get some recognition in the oh-so-trendy Glow. They get brushed off by Evil Blonde but PMEL shows she's a redeemable bitter career gal by giving Alex her card.

Christine comes out of Her cab giving the cabbie advice on his love life and the becomes best friends with PMEL's Latina landlady. She can tell she's HIDING A SECRET because Christine is furrowing her brow. More hip partying where we learn lecherous food critic has been accused of sexual harassment. There's a scene that establishes PMEL as a foodie because she can name all of the ingredients of the appetizers. It's annoying but this is a chick flick so it establishes her as lovable. And then we see a trashy blonde coming out of a bathroom all pissed off because it appears that lecherous food critic tried to grope her. She's Metrosexual Editor #1's girlfriend and he decides to fire lecherous food critic rather than risk the inevitable lawsuit. The Metrosexual Editors decide to give the food critic gig to PMEL since she is an idiot savant with the ingredients.

In another scene, Alex is cleaning up his restaurant when his swarthy loan shark comes asking for money. Alex doesn't have it because he has integrity instead. Dimitri the loan shark gives Alex until after Christmas, three weeks away, to get the money.

Christine is straightening up PMEL's apartment when PMEL's boyfriend enters. She immediately doesn't like him because he blew off her daughter's office party. Since this is her first meeting with the guy, Christine rips him apart as PMEL enters the apartment. Christine then announces that boyfriend is probably cheating on PMEL and in a surprise move, boyfriend admits to it and breaks of with PMEL on the spot. Oh dear god, Lifetime. Don't you know your chick flick conventions? You need to string the quirky heroine along for three quarters of the movie and THEN she realizes she can do better and SHE breaks up with HIM. This movie blows.

To further establish PMEL as a bitter career woman, PMEL rebuff's her mother's attempts to insert more Christmas in her life. Only bitter career woman hate Christmas. Because even Hindus, Muslims, Jews Buddhists, Wiccans, and Zoroastrians have nativities in their bedrooms. If they don't, they are bitter career women.

End of part one of the recap from hell.

Recipe for a Perfect Christmas - Recap teaser

I will post the full recap but there's so much to say about this awful Lifetime movie. I wanted to give a little context before launching into the full recap. Everything that's bad about Lifetime movies gets multiplied by 10. It was so bad, J had to tape a few minutes of Strong Medicine, the Lifetime hospital drama so we could get acclimated to bad Lifetime tv. Anyway, there are three themes to this movie: 1. Bad things happen to women with ambition. 2. Women with ambition are fundamentally damaged people. 3. Christine Baranski is slumming. One broad assessment: Carly Pope does not in any way look related to Christine Baranski. Carly looks like a poor man's Eva Longoria and Christine looks Irish and Chinese (due to her facelifts). Every chick flick cliche gets used and abused. I'll be posting the recap in sections over the next couple of days but be warned, this movie is atrocious.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Review - Montmartre

The theme of this week was eating at places we've normally avoided. The first was Ellington's on Eighth (review to come later) and the second was Montmartre. We decided to go to Montmartre on Wednesday to give us a well-deserved night out. We avoided it earlier because it seemed like such an occasion restaurant. However, once there we saw a lot of the customers just in their khakis and button-down shirts we knew this was a place we could go to as our pocketbook, rather than our willingness to dress up allowed. One person nearby even took off his tie at the table. You will spend some cash here but you won't lose your shirt. None of the entrees on the menu were over $20.

Even with the freezing temperatures, there was a line for tables. Luckily, we called ahead for reservations. I immediately fell in love with the decor. It was French country that wasn't about chintz and doilies. I loved the wooden rafters and mustard color of the walls. It seems like a majority of the staff were French or native French speakers and the chef (who we could see in the open kitchen) looked like he stepped off the pages of Gourmet. I was surprised J and I were seated at a four-top considering the line, but appreciated the space. I immediately fell in love with our server when he asked if we wanted bottled water or Tap.

We made it worth his while because we ordered A LOT. We both started with soup, mine being the Cream of Chestnut with Bacon and J's being the Ginger Carrot. This as the perfect starter for a night like Wednesday. I loved mine. The aromatic saltiness of the bacon paired well with the earthy sweetness of the chestnuts. J's was wonderful too but it wasn't out of the ball park good. The strong flavor of ginger reminded me of Thai curry while in itself is not a bad thing, but just wasn't a revelatory set of flavors.

You know what did hit it out of the ballpark? The bread. It's seriously the best bread I have eaten in DC. I was transported back to the month I spent in Fontainbleau (a suburb of Paris) where I would wake up early to get baguettes for me and my friends. It was around 6:30 am and the baguettes were coming right out of the oven and I was greeted with a cheery "bonjour Monsieur" from the person behind the counter and I replied with a "bonjour Madame" in an equally singsongy voice. I felt like that black and white photo of the little child in the basket of a bike carrying a baguette on a French country road. Ok where was I? Needless to say, if the bread can get me going about French baguettes, it's good bread. That's all I'm saying.

For our entree, I ordered the rabbit and J (on the advice of Chowhounders and egulleters) ordered the hanger steak. I had a Chateauneuf de Pape to go with my rabbit and J had a Sauvignon Blanc, both on the advice of our server. This was classic Frnech country food. Both meats with a heavy, rich sauce that was a reduction of the meat juices and wine. J's had an accompaniment of roast fingerling potatoes with lots of rosemary and mine had the stew vegetables and an herbed pasta alfredo. I truly loved the straighforward, yet complex flavors of both of the sauces. With the alfredo and the sauce, I would have like the dish to be a bit less intensely seasoned but that's really just nitpicking. While mine was memorable, J's was totally out of the ballpark. The meat was flavorful but tasted like itself and not the sauce or the marinade. I asked for extra bread to dip into his sauce.

Both of us were stuffed to the gills but it felt wrong NOT to order dessert. I ordered the blueberry tart and J ordered the mixed fruit tart to go. They both came with creme anglaise. Even eating them two hours later (when we could even think about food), we could barely taste them because of the strong memory of our entrees. If I were to do it again, I'd forgo the starter because of the heartiness of the entree.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Holiday TV Goodness Part 2

There is not way the Food Network would let the holiday season pass without a Paula Deen Christmas Special. It's yet another chance to go over her rags to riches story, and somehow I get a little verklempt. I'm a big ol' softy after all. We start with a lifestyle porntastic tour of Savannah. It is only the lack of fundthat prevents me from booking a flight and a weekend at a bed and breakfast in that town. We see gorgeous antebellum mansions and get taken along for a carriage ride around the city. after that gorgeousness we go to the Christmas tree farm where Paula and her boys, Jaime and Bobby and choosing a tree. We get into tear jerking mode, when Paula and Jaime (the taller, puffier one) reminisce about the lean times when they were too busy and too poor to get a tree. Jaime recalls one Christmas where his mother was working herself to the bone and the boys called her home to a Christmas tree made out of a hatrack, two ornaments and a silver garland. much dust. Eyes tearing up. Enough of that. Paula's shopping for tacky tchotckes! Oh no, another story from the lean times. Bobby (the darker, squintier one) recalls where they only had $200 for Christmas and decided to adopt of family and give THEM presents. Apparently, Paula looks like an elf in leggings. Then we go to Paula's living room that has 30 foot ceilings. In the corner is an enormous Christmas tree strung up with lights. Paula lets a little of her control freak out as she tells Jaime and Bobby exactly where to put the amaryllis deocration. We have a little segment where Paula makes her coconut cake for an auction at her restaurant. She also gets a gingerbread house maker to make a replica of Paula's house for the auction. That replica should be made of butter. Paula is auctioneer and she does this little mock fast talking. People are buying the baked goods for in the hundreds of dollars. More like buying a chance to be on TV as the winning bidder. But, whatever, it's all going to charity. Next is the cooking segment where Paula makes a crown roast and the boys make the sides. It's typical Paula. Nothing to add. More hilarity when we go to Paula's gag gift session for her restaurant employees. Paula and her husband Michael are dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. For some reason Michael is wearing a fake beard which seems unecessary since he has a large beard himself. The most hilarious is that Jaime and Bobby are dressed in green elf outfits. They aren't mugging for the camera or anything. They are just sitting there in green elf outfits. We then move to a highlight montage of Paula's year. That includes footage of Jaime's wedding to Brooke. Finally we're in front of the Christmas tree at Paula's house where she is giving gag gifts to her family. Gathered around the tree are Paula, Michael, and the boys along with Brooke, Aunt Peggy, Paula's brother Bubba, his daughter, and his "companion," a woman who looks like she's Brooke's sorority sister. Much laughter ensues and they are grateful for everything they have.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Holiday TV Goodness Part 1

No time for a real recap but the Food Network has holiday specials coming out of its ears. The first one I saw was the Barefoot Contessa Holiday. It's essentially four episodes in one with a section on holiday cocktail parties, a section on cookies, a section on breakfast and a section on a big holiday meal. In the cocktail party, she makes spike apple cider, proscuitto with melon, and potato pancakes with caviar and creme fraiche. It's her usual assortment of Hamptons dowagers and the gay men they love. She's even deigned to invite Michael the florist. Usually Michael just comes to arrange flowers and leaves before the REAL guests come. Ina could use his help because as a cetnerpiece she decided to use dead branches from her yard and decorate it with rings of dessicated fruit. If anyone watch King of the Hill, think of Peggy's yard waste Thanksgiving centerpiece. Unlike 99% of the things Ina makes, this looks like hot buttered ass. The next section is her making jam thumbprints which she then delivers to her friends all over Easthampton. We get a lot of arty shots of the Easthampton country roads where the houses are worth the GDP of a small developing nation. She gets invited in by her trusty sidekick Barbara. All of this goodwill makes her think of her husband Jeffrey who will be missing out on her big dinner party so she will be making a special breakfast with large obnoxious table arrangements of fruit and holiday greenery. The only thing special about this breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast is the caviar on the eggs and the mimosas. Then again, you can forgive a lot with a mimosa in your hand. Finally she makes a big holiday dinner with a roast turkey, a spinach gratin, green beans, caramelized butternut squash, and raspberry cheesecake. The four children at the dinner look incredibly bored and don't join in on the traditional cooing over the meal.

BTW, J is insistent I post the recipe for the Meyer lemon vinaigrette. It's simply equal parts Reisling vinegar, Cilantro citrus oil, olive oil and Meyer lemon juice with salt and white pepper.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pauline's Tree Trimming Party

The holiday got into full swing with Pauline's tree trimming party. We had Christmas coming out of our ass with caroling (hint, do not have Pauline set the pitch), tree trimming, and hot spiked cider. We alternated singing secular (Jingle Bells) and sacred (Away in a Manger) ending in an off key but lusty version of Santa Baby. Somehow she was able to fit 25 people into a her apartment. Good conversation abounded. On the menu was a cheese platter with grapes, chevre, maytag blue cheese, and pepper jack; a salad with mixed greens (one of the best innovvations for home cooks), more bleu cheese, candied walnuts, and pears with a meyer lemon vinaigrette I made with the Riesling Vinegar and the Cilantro Grapeseed oil. The centerpiece of the meal is a lasagna that's legendary. She has never worked off of a recipe so this year J and I decided to play sous chef while writing down the measurements of ingredients. This makes two lasagnas, one vegetarian, one sausage. The vegetarian is for the those who don't eat meat and those who require their ground meat in patty form. It can easily be halved to make one or the other.

The sauce:

1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 pound of sliced button mushrooms
1 16oz can of sliced black olives
2 32 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 32 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 8 oz can of tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons each of dried oregano, tarragon, sage, and thyme
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, crushed
1 long medium heat pepper (Anaheim, cubanelle etc)
1 cup of red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

The rest of the ingredients:

2 pounds of lasagna noodles
4 links of hot Italian sausage
1 1/2 bags of spinach, chiffonaded (is that a word)
2 large containers of ricotta cheese
1 pound of aged provolone, grated
1 pound of pecorino romano, grated (best done ina food processor)

It all starts with the homemade sauce. Tip to the cook - make this ahead of time because this takes the bulk of the evening.

It starts with sauteeing a large chopped onion and 4 cloves of chopped garlic in a quarter cup of olive oil (use a large stock pot for this) for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add about a pound of sliced button mushrooms (if you want to go all gourmet you can add portobellos, creminis and shitake) and a 16 oz can of sliced black olives and saute for another 15 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, adding salt and pepper as needed.

While the sauce is simmering, take the sausage meat out of the casing and sautee in a little bit of olive oil, making sure to break the meat apart as much as possible. Saute for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, boil lasange noodle in salted water with about 1/4 cup of olive oil until VERY al dente (take 5 minutes off the cooking time on the box). I will make a note and say that chiffonading the spinach is key to the integrity of this dish. It ensure the spinach can be easily distributed. When noodles are done, toss them in olive oil to keep them from sticking.

Now it's time to layer. For all lasagnas, start with a layer of sauce to keep the lasagna from sticking to the pan. Then layer in the following order: noodles/ricotta/provolone/romano/spinach/sauce/sausage. Repeat until you are out of ingredients, making sure to have enough sauce and cheese for the top layer. It's best to cover the lasagnas with plastic wrap and let them sit overnight but if you have to, bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. If it is coming straight out of the fridge, bake for an hour.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Crashing and Burning

I am banned from entering any nightclub in New York. DAMN YOU DUVET AND YOUR SOFT SHEETS AND YOUR HYPNOTIC JELLYFISH!!!! DAMN YOU!!!!! It's not my fault I was operating on 4 hours of sleep.

My whole trip to New York has felt very NEW YORK. The staff holiday party was at our Eexcutive Director's immaculate apartment. White walls, enormous kitchen, tasteful artwork. The half the servers looked like they walked out of an Abecrombie and Fitch catalog (clean cut with messy hair), the other half looked like they stepped off of an Armani catalog (long, greasy hair with a tan). They were all wearing tight black t-shirts that made the old gay men a-twitter. One of my co-workers is dating a puppeteer who made my night by bring his Madam puppet(as in Wayland Jennings) to regale the party.

It gets even more New York when we hit Duvet. We're a fabulous group of gays, straights, and trans folks. We stake out the biggest bed near the dance floor, and I order the Goose Down drink - gooseberries with vodka and other stuff. We're all talking and I start staring at their jellyfish aquarium and thinking to myself, "these sheets are so soft." Next thing I know, a server is poking me and telling me that we're not allowed to nap in the club. My co-workers are busting up for all the obvious reasons. I angrily demand that whoever slipped me the roofie come forward. It only makes them laugh harder. Apparently, I was napping for about 20 minutes. Many Sleeping Beauty Jokes ensue. I go to the bathroom and realize that I gave myself bedhead at a bar. So classy I am.

P.S. I was staying with a co-worker in Jersey City. It was astounding to take the PATH train to the World Trade Center stop and realize you are in the big hole that used to be the Twin Towers.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Sex in the City Moment

Where am I going to be at midnight? At a bar, lounging around in bed. These are not mutually exclusive activities as I will be at the oh-so-hip Duvet nightclub that is 3500 square feet of king sized beds. I'm in New York for my work's holiday party and the promoters are extending a special invitation to the staff at my oh-so-hip nonprofit. With all of the nice 500 thread count linens and New York's smokefree laws, we've just hit upon the one nightclub I will feel at home in. I wonder what the etiquette is for taking naps in nightclubs? Thank god my sexy librarian glasses came in.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

From my childhood - Ca Kho

I was whisked back to my childhood when I read the Chowhound post that Alice Patis did on her mother's claypot fish. This was one of the staples growing up and one of the few dishes from my childhood that I have committed to memory. In contrast to my vast love of this dish, I rarely cook it.

So Vietnamese caramel fish or Ca Kho, remains a delicacy that I cook for J and the Asians in my life. I'm insecure about whether someone initiated into tradtional Asian cooking will get this dish. It's the essence of northern Vietnamese cooking. The sweet-salty intense sauced flavors make this dish perfect for a cold night. I made this for a Filipino friend of ours and she said it reminded her of HER childhood. Another reason I don't cook this dish as much as I should, is that I love to serve it with sticky rice. Sticky rice is a dish that requires forethought. First of all, the sticky rice I like is Laotian long grain as opposed to the short grained sushi rice. It needs to be soaked at least four hours and then steamed in a woven basket for 45 minutes. The result is a rice that is sticky without being gooey. There will be a trip to the Eden center in the near future where I replenish my store of long grain sticky rice and Ca Kho will be made. As a side note, it appears my technique (which I learned from my mother) is vastly different from the traditional Caramel Fish which calls for a separate caramel sauce. This is not the definitive version but it's the one in my family.

Ca Kho
2 pounds of catfish cut into 2 inch chunks
1/2 cup of nuoc mam
2 tablespoons regular cooking oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 "coins" of slices ginger (ginger sliced into disks)
1 teaspoon Sambal olek
1/4 cup of sugar plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
Liberal amounts of pepper

Marinate the catfish in 1/4 cup of nuoc mam and about a teaspoon of black pepper for at least 15 minutes. In a small pot, sautee the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil and sesame oil until translucent (5 minutes). Add the marinated catfish, sambal, 1/4 cup of nuoc mam and 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir, trying not to break up the fish. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. In the meantime melt 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar melts and is the color of an old penny. Once the sugar gets to that point, pour it immediately on top of the fish mixture. Deglaze the sugar pan with a few tablespoons of water and pour on top of the ismmering fish. Give the fish a stir and then cover and simmer for about ten minutes. By then the caramel would have melted into the sauce and made the sauce a golden brown color. Simmer for another five minutes to reduce the sauce. Serve with sticky rice. Another good accompaniment is sauteed spinach with lots of garlic.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Meyer Lemons

I can't stop sniffing my hands. You see, Meyer lemons are in season and I decided to make limoncello for a gift exchange. For those of you who haven't encountered the joys of this California lemon (all good things come from California - i.e. ME), the Meyer lemon is all about aroma. You just keep sniffing and sniffing for that lovely citrus fragrance that tickles your nose and perks your senses. Meyer lemons have the lightness of citrus but a lovely wafting floral scent I can't completely describe. It smells like citrus bouquet. The taste almost lives up to the scent. Somehow this have the flavor of lemon without the face smooshing sourness. Because limoncello only requires the zest of a lemon, we used the juice for lemonade, a wierd but wonderful treat in the middle of snowy evening. I just zested 15 of those suckers and their scent lingers on my hands. I am hold off on giving you the limoncello recipe because I have no idea if it will turn out. If it does, I'll let you all know. In the meantime I an sniffing my hands.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

French Toast

French toast is a staple of my brunches. Unlike things like omelettes, waffles, and pancakes, French toast can be made ahead and reheated. In fact, I prefer my Frnech toast baked in the oven a bit. I don't want soggy bread. Also, the inherent breadiness of French toast makes it an ideal vehicle not just for maple syrup, but things like macerated strawberries. The difficult thing about writing a recipe for French toast you can add more egg-milk mixture if you run short so you never really think of how much of anything you need. Here's my attempt. Please let me know if I am off on any amounts.

1 loaf of challah bread or a good thick baguette
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon cooking oil

Slice challah crosswise into 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices. The trick here is how far ahead you want to make these. If you are serving immediately, slice closer to 1/2 inch to reduce time in the oven. If you are reheating later, make it thicker to reheat without drying out. Melt the butter in the microwave and add the cooking oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. In a baking dish, arrange the slices in one layer and pour the egg-milk mixture on top. Let soak anywhere between two and five minutes. Dribble some of the butter-oil mixture into a skillet and spread around. Fry slices of soaked bread for about a minute on each side. Bake for about five minutes on a greased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven to firm up the middle. If reheated later, bake for about 10 minutes. Maple syrup is good, but macerated strawberries rocks my world. Just hull and slice a pint of strawberries, add a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (I kid you not) and mash them a little to make the strawberries release some juice.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Under the weather? Your tips?

Unfortunately, I am sick as a dog. Yesterday, T was taking care of me (he is sweet like that and I was not functional) and ran out to Pacific Cafe and picked up some Pho Ga, which was delicious and helpful. The salty broth was soothing to my icky throat and the heat helped with the congestion.

Pho is on the top of my list, but help me out here. What are the foods that make you feel better?


Friday, December 02, 2005

My Solemn Vow to You

OH MY GOD. I just found out that Lifetime has a tv movie coming out called "Recipe for a Perfect Christmas." The plot is that "bookish" food writer Carly Pope (who is like an even more trashy Lynda Lopez) bribes restaurant owner Bobby Cannavale to date her sexuallly voracious mother Christine "was the paycheck worth it?" Baranski. Obviously people learn the value of family. I'm disappointed that noone has as eating disorder, is chasing the dragon, or has to stand alone to bring a serial rapist to justice. Nevertheless, I am so gonna recap. That's my solemn vow to you.

Tales of New Year's Brunch

I always find brunch to be the most civilized meal of the day. The whole idea of having breakfast at a time that allows to you get over your hangover is brilliant. In the past years we've hosted a New year's brunch that's capped off our holiday season with our friends. With the hubbub of the holidays and the endless gatherings, we've found we never find time to do a proper gift exchange before people leave town. So we just dispense with even trying and chose to do it New Year's Day. The principle being, if you were to nurse your hangover, you would want to do it with those nearest and dearest to you. We did have one brunch where Pauline slept through the whole thing because she had a REALLY good time the night before.

Our first brunch in 2003 was a fairly low key affair. We made the mistake of giving a 12:30 pm start time. The earliest anyone came was 1:30 pm. We served what would become New Year's staples of French toast, Morningstar farms vegetarian sausage patties, and a citrus salad that was inspired by Mr. Henry's. This was before I became a religious watcher of Barefoot Contessa and sliced my segments widthwise instead of cutting between the pithy segments to only have the juicy fruit (ok I know that doesn't make sense). From then on there would additions to the menu, but no subtractions. Rootbeer brought the traditional black eyed peas.

Our second brunch in 2004 was a bittersweet affair that we ended up reminiscing about the good times with Rebecca 1.0 as she only recently had moved out the west coast. Auntie Ang rounded us up to make scrapbook pages for Rebecca 1.0. Much sighing ensued. This was the fateful event that Pauline may have STILL BEEN DRUNK FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE and therefore slept through. The Librarian provided the entertainment by downloading The Darkness songs and serenade the group. Menu additions included crepes with lemon curd and Nutella (not together) and Stinkle's New Year's cabbage. Apparently, there's some tradition that if you eat cabbage in the New Year, you'll find your true love.

With the hung over Pauline incident of 2004, and New Year's occurring on a Saturday, we decided to have New Year's brunch at dinnertime. This made for a saner prep and guests arriving without hangovers. This also was the introduction of Playstation karaoke to the New Year's festivities. Apparently, Writergirl has nursed a secret love of karaoke and the Librarian bought her Playstation karaoke for Christmas. I got wind of this hours before the "brunch" and asked (read: demanded) them to bring it over. I must say that that shit is effing addictive. Even when half the party was sequestered in our office because they couldn't stand it, those of us singing COULD NOT STOP. I was vindicated this summer when we had a party for J's co-workers and the karaoke MADE the party. Menu additions this year were Barefoot Contessa's orange yogurt and the introduction of Kir Royales to the beverage list.

This year Rootbeer's taking the reins but happy memories help us to nurse hangovers. I'll be posting recipes from the brunch through the month of December.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New DCFud post

My obsession with holiday entertaining continues on DCFud. Check out the recipe for Union Square mixed nuts.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Busy busy busy

How come even the most reclusive people decide to throw a party in December? It's like bad traffic during Thanksgiving. People should know better but they do it anyway. This December proves to be more of the same as we have stuff every weekend in December culminating in a New Year's Day brunch and gift exchange that Rootbeer is hosting. For the next few entries I will be relying on my friends to provide the recipes since J and I have sensibly decided that we will just GO to the events and not host them. However, I'll kick off my holiday recipes by providing a totally cheesy Sandra Leeish punch.

2 bottle of cheap champagne
1 bottle of sparkling apple cider
2 cups of cranberry juice
1/4 cup of Contreau or Grand Marnier

Pour all into a punch bowl and keep chilled.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Green Papaya: Bethesda, MD

I've written this review a few times now. I'm always on the lookout for good Vietnamese places and like to suggest them to friends who have had less Vietnamese. A friend from out of town came in for dinner and the group chose Green Papaya in Bethesda. Honestly, almost a week later, I am still conflicted about whether I really enjoyed it or not.

The service was good and the restaurant is lovely, but I kept finding myself wishing I was at Minh's in Arlington. Bun Thit Nuong (pork over vermicelli noodles) was noticeably more complex and flavorful than Bun Tom Nuong (shrimp over vermicelli noodles). The Bun Tom Nuong, which cost considerably more than Minh's, was served on a bed of clumpy overcooked vermicelli. Much of the flavor seemed to stay on the shell. While tasty, I was hoping for better. Appetizer spring rolls were well-prepared and satisfying, though, again, I found myself thinking about Minh's.

I was also surprised that the servers had not heard of hoisin or soda chanh, two items I love at most Vietnamese restaurants. Green Papaya does have pho on the menu which is typically served with hoisin and siracha. It made me wonder what they do serve it with since hoisin was definitely a mystery.

I think this explains why reviewers go to a restaurant several times. I'd like to see the flavor kicked up a bit and for the vermicelli to be served correctly. I'll update when I go back. Anyone else out there tried it? What am I missing?

I should note that my dining companions really seemed to enjoy their meals and that the company, service, and atmosphere was delightful. just hoping it clicks next time.


Friday, November 25, 2005

Declaring the holiday Season Open...

With Internet Karaoke! Please forgive me but I cannot stop listening to and singing along with Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas is You. In a vian attempt to get it out of my head, I will attempt to do internet karaoke. This is deidcated to J, the best Christmas present EVER!

*Tinkly music plays*
IiiiIIII don't want a LOT for Christmas
ThEEEere's just one thing I need
I don't care about the presents
UUUuunderneath the Christmas tree
I just waaaaant you for my ooooown
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come truOOOOOOOOoooe
All I want for ChristmaaaaAAAaas iiiiIIIIiiiis...
YoOOOOoooUUUu Yeah

I don't WANT a lot for Christmas
There's just ONE thing I need
(And IIIIII) I don't care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I don't need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won't make me happy
With a toy on Christmas day
I just want you for my OWN
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come trUUUUUUuuue
All I want for Christmas is yoOOOOOUuuuUUu
YOOOouuuu baby

I'm just gonna keep on waiting
Underneath the mIIIIIIstleTOE
I won't make a list and send it
To the North Pole for Saint Nick
I won't even stay awake to
Hear those magic reindeers click
'Cause I just want you here tonIIIIght
Holding on to me so tIIIIght
What more can I dOOOOo
Baby all I want for ChristmAAAAs is yOOOOoooUUUuuu
Ooh baby
All the lights are shining
So brightly everywhere
And the SOUND of children's
Laughter fills the air
And everyone is singing
I hear those sleigh bells ringing

Oh I don't want a lot for Christmas
This is all I'm asking fOOoor
I just want to see my baby
Standing right outside my door
Oh I just want you for my oOOOoown
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come trOOOuue
Baby all I want for ChristMAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS is...


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes it truly is the most adored food holiday in all the land. I'm in the bosom of my full crazy family in Houston. I've played about seventeen gazillions games of hide and seek with my 4 and 8 year old cousins and made my apple crostadas. It a happy twist of fate, my foodies uncles have taken over Thanksgiving. As we speak, a 22 pound tukey is being brined. Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!! -T

I'm here in DC, excited to be spending time with neighborhood and work friends. My version of Paula Deen's Marshmallow-Stuffed Sweet Potato Balls is ready for transport along with one of two green bean casseroles made with water chestnuts for crunch, worcestershire for a salty bite, and a southern-boy portion of sharp cheddar cheese to make it, well, cheesy. Also ready for transport is a jug of spiked apple cider with rum and cinnamon schnapps and some cream cheese with jalapeno jelly that seems to have a permanent place at the holiday table in Texas. It's not quite there yet, but I think it's pretty damn good.

Among all the other things, today I am thankful for food, education, humor, art, friends, family, and most of all T.

Best wishes to you and yours. -J

Monday, November 21, 2005

Paula Deen's Thanksgiving special

I won't do a full recap because the special is an hour long but I have to make a few comments about it. The highlight of the whole thing for me was the homemade turducken. I nearly lost it when the teaser said she was going to make her own turducken. Turducken (I love saying that word!) aside, it was a kind of meh episode. She was laying it on thick with her corn pone antics and her sons were laying it thicker with their UGA frat routine. I was trying to figure out whether the two ladies at the poker game for Jamie and Bobby's wives or Michael's children.

Not including the turducken, the food was pretty meh. Paula made an oyster stuffing with oysters that were essentially harvested in her backyard. It was a fairly standard cornbread stuffing that I thought was way too wet. When it was taken out of the oven, it had a bread-pudding-like consistency. I like my stuffing to be breadier and more solid. While that was going on, fratty Boddy and Jaime were staying true to their Southern roots and frying a turkey. They essentially rubbed it with butter and spices and dunked it into a huge fryer. More fake hijinks of Paula trying to steal a drumstick from the boys.

When we get back from commercial Paula is putting together her turducken. It's a sight to behold. I'll leave it at that. She then makes a sweet potato ball that's a mound of sweet potato with a marshmallow surprise inside. I went into sugar shock just looking at it.

There's this whole fakety fake scene of poker playing that is just plain stagey. I google Jaime Deen (the bigger, doughier one), and it looks like Brooke is his wife. She looks like she could be a cheerleader, complete with heavy eyeliner, chunky highlights and a perky smile. She has the good sense to look a little embarassed at the fake poker cheating.

Jaime and Bobby retire to the kitchen to make some artery hardening snacks. Bobby wraps sesame pretzel sticks in bacon and Jaime makes a little hamburger and wraps it with puff pastry. They have an easygoing rapport and pal around while they cook.

They come back to the game with a plateful of snacks and fake accuse their mother of cheating in the fake poker game. Thankfully we leave that and go to Paula's gorgeous porch where she SAYS she set the table but we all know it was some poor production assistant working until 4:00 am. It is a fall fantasy of leaves, red and orange flowers, and pumpkins.

In her final demonstration she mixes cranberry juice and apple juice together with some cloves and cinnamon to make a cider. We leave the Deen/Groover household on the gorgeous porch hoping they don't drop dead from a heart attack.

Some more about Del Ray

J told you all about Los Tios and I wanted to let you all know about our other little jaunts in Del Ray. Del Ray isn't a huge commercial area, but the shops that are there are interesting and worth exploring. After we were sated at Los Tios, we went to Cheesetique to forage. Ironically, we ended up getting everything BUT cheese. J and I got some pepper crackers and fig jam in hopes of recreating Two Amy's pipe dreams goat cheese with fig jam. We had a log of goat cheese form the cheese vendor at Eastern Market. We then went to what used to be called the Dreamery. It was forced to change it's name because some evil ice cream conglomerate sued them. So now it's called Dairy Godmother. This pisses me off to no end. It's just like when some family owned a pub in Scotland and were sued by MacDonald's for calling themselves MacDonald's. This family WAS the clan MacDonald. As if anyone will confuse a Scottish pub with a soulness fast food joint. Anyway, we got some custard sundaes at the shop-formerly-known-as-Dreamery and they were fine. For J, the sundaes were a marshmallow topping delivery system. What I found was funny was that the jukebox only played songs with the word "dream" in the title. Boy D put in a quarter for the jukebox to play the Billy Ocean classic "Get out of my Dreams, Get in to my Car." While an attention whore like me will totally start bopping in public to a song like that, I was tickled pink when both Boy D and Girl D starting bopping too.

Del Ray was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and well worth exploring.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sunday in Del Ray: Los Tios Grill

Los Tios Grill is a small but colorful restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray section of Alexandria. We went Sunday with our friends D&D who recently moved in just down the street. For those who haven't been, Del Ray's main drag is populated with shops, independent restaurants and more with commercial sections divided by the occasional stretch of houses. It was a gorgeous day for a walk so we left D&Ds and enjoyed a cool stroll to Los Tios.

Those who know me and some who have read it here know that I truly love good Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I love everything from the basics to the more complex and unique foods and flavors of our neighbors to the south. For me, today was all about the basics.

I did not really have expectations of my lunch at Los Tios. D&D had been told it was good though they have spent more time enjoying Taqueria Poblano, not too far down the street. The menu of Tex-Mex and Salvadoran cuisine, has many of my favorites including the standard round of fajita, enchilada, burrito, and chimichanga options. I wanted to try many dishes but settled on the chicken fajitas, mainly because I think they are a good measure of how a restaurant handles a potentially bland, and usually very simple dish.

But before the main course, the table opted for the guacamole appetizer ($4.95) and the Tamal de Elote ($2.25) along with the complimentary chips and salsa. I love some good chips and I find they truly set the tone for the rest of the meal. I have rarely had good food at a place that doesn't know how to work the chips and salsa. The chips were light but substantial enough to hold a goodly amount of salsa. They were served warm and fresh with a standard, but delicious red salsa with tasty bits of onion and just enough cilantro and heat to satisfy my pretty picky tastebuds.

The guacamole appetizer was a hit for four guacamole lovers. Served in a fried mini flour tortilla cup and surrounded by triangles of fried flour tortillas, it was a well-mixed balance of creamy and chunky. The Tamal de Elote was a comforting sweet corn appetizer served with sour cream. Think a slightly more dry creamed corn served in the shape of a medium-sized tamale. Always a treat when done right and worth the very reasonable $2.25.

The chicken fajitas arrived on their sizzling platter with a stack of fresh tortillas and spoonfuls of rice, beans, guacamole, and sour cream. Grilled chicken rested on a bed of onions and peppers that tasted of garlic, a hint of soy possibly and lime juice. The chicken itself was delicious, full of flavor, and expertly grilled. The accompanying tortillas were soft and pliant and had a good hand-feel. All-in-all, I was very pleased and enjoyed slathering each serving with their tasty salsa.

It was perceptive of the server, who did a great job throughout the meal, to bring us a special hot sauce that was as delicious as it was powerfully hot. A mix of citrus, jalapeno, habanero, and cilantro, it provided one hell of a punch but was not too painful considering its potential.

The server and other employees at Los Tios Grill were warm and welcoming and this was not lost on us. It's great to feel like your business is valued and that people enjoy your enjoying their restaurant.

We will be back!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Did I not declare Thanksgiving season open?

Which is why I am doing yet another Thanksgiving post. And speaking of the Post and Thanksgiving, when did the Washington Post Food Section get an injection of relevancy? I am so loving Wednesday's Food Section, answering some basic Thanksgiving questions and giving some of the basic recipes. I love that the Food Section is not trying to track or make trends. This week it's about giving some recipe and tips that address problems of the home cook. For example, the difficult thing about mashed potatoes is that you have to make them a milisecond before you serve them, because cold or lukewarm mashed potatoes...BLECH. They solve that problem by turning the mashed potatoes into a casserole that stays warm in the oven so that you can make them ahead of time. BRILLIANT! All of the questions they answer are ones that even experienced cooks have asked themselves before like, "What's the best way to roast a turkey and how long does it take?" or "I'm not a gravy person, and don't really know how to make it. But at Thanksigving everybody seems to want it. Help!" For this week's food section, the editors realize Thanksgiving isn't the time to be avante garde. I'm sure even vegetarian conceptual artists in SoHo are opening up cans of Burpee Fried Onions to make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving. The Post food writers chose recipes that were interesting but not threatening. They do the basics of roast turkey, herbed bread dressing, and mac 'n cheese. Even better, they acknowledge that NOONE wants offbeat ingredients like jalepeno peppers in their cranberry sauce. Their more adventurous recipes include a Prosciutto and Cornbread stuffing, corn pudding, and mixed greens with pears and balsamic vinaigrette. While they include some non-traditional ingredients, the recipes themselves aren't out of the ordinary.

By the way, if you ever disagreed with me that Ina Garten is a co-dependent mess, watch her first Thanksgiving episode. She talks about how she wanted to serve a Virginia ham for Thanksgiving but all of her friends screamed at her to serve a turkey. Of course she caved and served the turkey. She spends the WHOLE episode talking about how you have to make Thanksgiving EXACTLY how people had it growing up. So she makes brussel sprouts for one person and then makes two kinds of cranberry conserve because one person doesn't like nuts. It's like that Thanksgiving episode on Friends where everyone is telling Monica how to make mashed potatoes (lumpy, with tater tots, with peas). Ina, you're hosting the party and doing all the work. Serve whatever the hell you want.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thanksgiving Plans

I am having two Thanksgivings. The first is in Houston at my aunt's place with all of my family. I am trepidatious of this because I don't know what kind of kitchen toys I'll have. I do know I will be doing the turkey at the insistence of my cousin Anna. I am interested to see what my aunts come up with for the rest of the meal. Houston has this ginormous Asian supermarket that is the size of a football stadium. There's more live fish there than in the Baltimore Aquarium. It could be that we have turkey and a mostly Vietnamese meal.

Because the only way to get a fare under $500 was to leave Tuesday and return Friday, I will also be doing a Thanksgiving on Saturday with the Lancasters. It appears Lady Lancaster's parents are a cheap as me and got tickets to come to DC at 8:30 pm on Thursday. For the sanity of everyone, they decided to hold their Thanksgiving on Saturday. I scored an invitation to that shindig for J and I by offering to make dessert and a couple sides. I will make the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert. I don;t know what I am making for the starchy side but I am definitely making broccoli slaw for the vegetable. It's somehow very much the essence of fall but also refreshing. Basically, you get a bag of broccoli slaw, add about a cup of shredded purple cabbage, a half a cup of cranberries, and a half a cup of chopped walnuts or pceans. Toss with the maple-balsamic dressing (see the balsalmic-glazed salmon for that) and let sit for a least 15 minutes.

In other news, the sexy librarian glasses have not yet arrived.

Monday, November 14, 2005

DC and More Restaurant Reviews Index

2 Amy’s, Part 1
2 Amy’s, Part 2

Amasia Bistro
Belga Café
Bistro Italiano
Blondie’s Pizza: California
Chicken Tortilla
DC Coast
Ella’s Wood Fired Pizza
Flying Fish: Old Town
Green Papaya: Bethesda
Han Sung Oak: Annandale, Part 1
Han Sung Oak: Annandale, Part 2
Hollywood East Café
Jerry’s Seafood/G&M Crabcakes
Lite-N-Fair: Old Town
Strawberry Hill (Lancaster, PA)
The Old Siam
The Ugly Mug


Alamo Restaurant


Cafe Atlantico

Café Atlantico (mini)

Dairy Godmother

El Tapatio

Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles

Indigo Landing

Java Green

Los Tios

New York Food Tour

Pho 88

Pho VN One


Saravana Palace

Seven Seas


Ten Penh

The Ugly Mug

Updated!! DC Foodblog's Recipe list

Ok. This took for effing EVER.

The Basics
Pie Crust
Dinner Rolls
Roast Chicken
Roast Turkey
Homemade Mayonnaise

Comfort Food
Roasted Tomato Soup
Cheese Grits
Barley Casserole
Two kinds of stuffing
Mac 'n Cheese
French toast

Liquid Courage
Kir Royales
Blackberry lemonade

Chocolate bliss cookies
Lemonade Cake
Chocolate Cake
Crack Matzo
Sugar Cookies
Cheesecake bars
Martha Washingtons
Rum Balls
Nell's sugar cookies
Peanut Butter sandwiches
Chocolate chip cookies
Pistachio cake
Butterscotch Bundt Cake
Apple strudel
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Apple Crostada
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread
Chocolate Crinkles
Raspberry Turnovers
Carrot cake
Key Lime Pie

Appetizers and Sides

Mini Quiches
Squash Casserole
Onion Dip
Won Tons
Satay Meatballs
Candy Salad
Dumpling dipping sauce
Risotto Balls
Broccoli Slaw
Roasted Pepper Dip
Salmon Puffs
Cheddar Olives

Main courses
Erik E-Strada
Vegetarian Bourguignonne
Balsalmic Glazed Salmon
Spicy Omelet
Enchilada Casserole
Shrimp and Grits
Tofu in Tomato Sauce
Bengali Chicken

Chicken Pot Pie

Crab Balls

Dill Dip

Double Vanilla White Chocolate Mousse

Herbed Griddle Cakes

Lime Chicken

Magical San Antonio Flan Cake

Mango Mousse Tart

Mushroom Carrot Strudel

Orzo Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Salsa Verde


Thai Eggplant Pizza

Chicken Tortilla: Barracks Row's Latest

Chicken Tortilla
1100 8th St. SE

Well, Barracks Row has done it again. Want a mighty fine burrito with some tasty rotisserie chicken? I think I found the place.

Chicken Tortilla has been open for about 6 weeks down at 1100 8th St. SE. This is a great addition to Barracks Row. T and I went to try out the new place and we were not disappointed. In fact, in the burrito wars where people fawn and fight over Burrito Brothers, Chipotle, and California Tortilla, I'd say they have a shot at the crown.


Well, first, it should be made clear that this is a rotisserie chicken place that makes burritos. So the chicken better be damn good right? It is. The rotisserie imparts a roasty toasty deep flavor that was very tasty. The taste held up in my burrito quite well and it had a lot to contend with in there. T added that it was nice to taste roasted chicken that was not overly dependent on salt.

The "Burraso" is a 13-inch tortilla filled with steak, chicken or neither; rice, pinto or black beans, your choice of salsas, sour cream, etc. I had mine done up with chicken, guacamole ($1.50 extra), rice, black beans, a tomatillo salsa verde, and some fresh crisp mixed lettuce. This was a big mamma burrito and the burrista ("burrito+barrista") had some serious trouble folding it up. I think a little less would have been fine.

What matters most to me with a jam-packed burrito is that the individual ingredients are fresh, flavorful, and stand on their own while playing their part in the overall package. As I said, the chicken was a highlight, but the fresh and slightly tangy guacamole came in a nice second. Rice was the perfect texture even at the end of the evening and the salsa was kicky and placed throughout the burrito. A less apt burrista would have all the good bits sloshed in the bottom. Not here.

T had the 1/4 chicken dark and liked it a lot as well. He gave me a bite of his fried yucca, one of several available sides. It was crisp and yummy.

We finished with a generic but surprisingly moist chocolate cake which had a lovely mousse filling. With sodas, it came to about $20.00 for the two of us, but it could have been cheaper without the dessert and the guacamole.

One thing I do hope is that Chicken Tortilla will consider a slightly smaller burrito than the Burraso behemoths that they offer. I know some folks who just wouldn't make it through. Today though, after skipping lunch, this really hit the spot.

I'm happy they are here and hope people will go check them out. The folks were nice and the place is sparkling clean.


Risotto Balls

Eat with Me just posted a what looks to be a killer pumpkin risotto recipe. He serves it in little pumpkins! I feel like a bull in a china shop compared to that fabulousness.

While many may wax poetically about the luscious creaminess of risotto, my Vietnamese tastebuds find the texture to be unsettling. It's somewhere between your fluffy steamed rice and the fully wet congee. However, leftover risotto becomes the perfect base for a kicking croquette. I was inspired by Two Amy's whimsically named Suppli Di Telefono to make my own risotto balls. I used Nigella's lemon risotto recipe for the base and mozarella cheese as the cremay center and it worked out wonderfully. Being inspired by Eat with Me's recipe, I decided to make a fall version. Needless to say, it worked out wonderfully. This will be on my Thanksgiving table.

So make a double recipe of Eat with Me's pumpkin risotto. Serve half to your friends in little pumpkin bowls and save the other half for risotto balls the next night. Hopefully you will have about 3 cups of risotto.

The rest of the ingredients are:
12 (1/2-inch) cubes of a nutty Swiss cheese like Gruyere or Emmenthaler (about 1 oz total)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (not seasoned)
About 8 cups vegetable oil for frying

Roll chilled risotto into 12 (1 1/2-inch) balls using wet hands. Poke a small hole in center of each ball and insert a 1/2 inch cube of the Swiss cheese, then re-form into a ball.

Put flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dredge 1 risotto ball in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in bread crumbs and transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Repeat with remaining balls.

Heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot. Working in batches of 4, lower rice balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 360°F between batches. Let balls stand 2 minutes (for cheese to melt).

This can be fried ahead of time and then reheated in a 350 degree over for 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sometimes Magic Happens

So the whole reason I was at Big Queer Organizing Conference was to give a presentation on the organizing I do on issue X. It was your typical panel presentation with a lawyer for a certain legal group and an Executive Director of an organization that worked with certain student clubs (it rhymes with Play Great Alliances). The lawyer talked about ligitation around issue X and the E.D. talked about implementation and enforcement of laws around issue X. I talked about how to get the laws passed in the first place. The workshop was at 6:00pm, the very last workshop that day. I spent the day hoping noone would be there so I could have dinner earlier with my peeps. Who the hell has workshops at 6:00pm when people are getting ready for dinner? As you can see, I wasn't expecting much. And that's when the magic happens. We had a good crowd of around 25 people. Those 25 people were people who really wanted to listen to what we had to say. Surprisingly enough, we were on. We all complemented each other and gave concrete, useful information. The questions reflected the expertise and interest of the audience and the discussion was lively. Being the feedback whore that I am, as soon as the crowd cleared, I went through the evaluations. They rated the information we gave out and the speakers as uniformly excellent. WHEE! The only complaint was that they wished there was more time for discussion.

One my workshop high, I went with June, R1.0, and Bethany to Berkeley to have the college dining experience of a slice of Blondies pizza and a ginormous serving of frozen yogurt at Yogurt Park. Over pizza we discussed the politics of the feminist movement. It was fitting that my last meal in the bay area ended with a large serving of boysenberry frozen yogurt from Yogurt Park. The yogurt is smooth and creamy and served not in little dishes but cups the size of a medium soft drink. All for $2.35. Licking down the frozen berriness, we discussed - "Will the feminist movement make space for the next generation?" Heady stuff to think about over FroYo.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dumpling Dipping Sauce

A delicious dim sum accompaniment . . .

Whenever we have siu mai, dumplings, or other dippable dim sum delights, I throw together a yummy dipping sauce that T originally taught me.

What You Need

3 tbsp rice vinegar
5 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp thai sweeet chili suace

Stir the ingredients together and taste. Different folks will want more sweet, spicy, etc. Add to taste and serve with your hot dumplings.

Better yet, put the ingredients out and let people make their own. This is a delightfully complex mix of flavors.

Enjoy! -J

Report from the Conference

SO I'm out here in sunny Oakland at the big queer organizing conference. Big evil word of the day is binary. Folks here don't like being put into labels and boxes. I on the other hand, have mixed feelings. Being queer and Vietnamese is important for me. That "label" is my identity and I am proud of the culture I come from and the communities that I am a part of. It's an interesting experience come to Big Ol' Queer Conference because I know so many people. There's an amazing security in seeing so many people I can catch up and talk shop with. As much as anyone can feel "in," I certainly do here. These are my peeps. As messy as things can get when you think about the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, and class, I feel at home. It has certainly afforded me the freedom to spend time by myself and call it a night when it seems the rest of the world is going to some fabulous party.

Woo, sorry to get all deep on you. I'm just in that kind of space. Speaking of the space I'm in, I love being in downtown Oakland, near a thriving and vital "Chinatown" that serves the diverse Asian Pacific Islander population of Oakland. It brings home the fact that DC's Chinatown bites the big one. Oakland's Chinatown, reflects the multicultural nature of this city. This Chinatown serves the Asians who LIVE in Oakland and you will be hard pressed to find a Starbucks or Coyote Ugly in here. Instead there are blocks of Asian markets, jewelry stores, herbalists, pharmacies, restaurants and take-out places. I have eaten every single one of my lunches in Chinatown alternately at Vietnamese delis (with amazing Banh Mis - Vietnamese sandwiches) and the take out dim sum places with potstickers the size of my fist. I have never paid more than $3 for a filling and delicious lunch. Things like shu mai and har gow are 45 cents. Char Siu baos are $1. And Banh Mis are $2. I have never left my lunches hungry. It's also fairly evident with the take out dim sum that the dumplings are made fresh on the premises. It's weird to eat supersized versions of my little dim sum dumplings but it allows you to taste the flavors of the savory fillings more clearly.

Foodwise, Asian seems to be the theme. I ate one meal that wasn't Asian food, and that was breakfast. Wednesday night I had dinner with my brother at Le Cheval, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant near my hotel. We had the seven courses of beef. While I appreciate the delicate flavors of the beef carpaccio and the beef that was rolled up in rice paper, there were too many dishes that required you to rolled up thin slices of beef in rice paper with lettuce and herbs. Having three dishes done that way, homogenized the differences in flavor between beef that was dipped in boiling broth and beef that was grilled in a hibachi on the table. Being a cold night, we both appreciated the warmth of the Vietnamese rice porridge with shredded beef.

Last night, I had a little reunion with June, Auntie Ang, and R1.0, meeting in the Mission district to have dinner a Burma Star, a very small and very popular restaurant. I was impressed by similarities and differences Burmese food had with other cuisines from Southeast Asia. There were the usual curries and noodle dishes but these dishes had the deeper salty-sour flavor that marked Burmese food. Thanks to Auntie Ang for being the Auntie to the group and picking up the tab. We LOOOOVE you.

I always come away from the Bay area impressed with the love of good cheap food that is in almost every neighborhood here. In one block in the Mission District, there were three coffee houses, two dessert places, a Korean restaurant, two pho places, a vegetarian sandwich shop and of course, Burma Star.

DC is my home and my community, but I am always wistful about the food of San Francisco.